A Child Called It By Dave Pelzer

A Child Called It By Dave Pelzer

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A Child Called "It", by Dave Pelzer, is a first person narrative of a child’s struggle through a traumatic abused childhood. The book begins with Dave telling us about his last day at his Mother’s house before he was taken away by law enforcement. At first I could not understand why he had started at the end of his tale, but after reading the entire book it was clear to me that it was easier to read it knowing there indeed was a light at the end of the dark tunnel. This horrific account of extreme abuse leaves us with a great number of questions which unfortunately we do not have answers for. It tells us what happened to this little boy and that miraculously he was able to survive and live to see the day he left this hole which was his home, however, it does not tell us why or even give us a good amount of background with which to speculate the why to this abuse.
Catherine Roerva Pelzer, Dave’s mom, is portrayed as Mom, Mother, and the Bitch. Dave tells us about Mom right after his account of “The Rescue.” He tells us of “The Good Times” when Mom and Father were happy, when they were all a normal family. Mom was a devoted nurturer, housewife and teacher. She wore dresses, her face was always made up, and she was always cooking scrumptious meals for the family. Mom would take outings with her sons whenever father wasn’t around, and vacations with the whole family, the most memorable being their trips to the Russian River. Mom was sweet and loving; she acknowledged achievements, showed pride and physical as well as emotional affection around her son.
Mother is introduced to us from “The Rescue” and we continue to learn of her tortures throughout the book. Mother is a woman who is angry, specially towards Dave, specially when he is in need of punishment. Mother does not take care of her appearance anymore, she walks around in robes all day, watches tv, never bothers to put on make up, and often smells of alcohol. She is vindictive, cruel and abusive, always barking orders, assigning impossible chores and coming up with more sickening ways to break Dave. Mother attacks Dave’s self esteem by making him repeat and believe that he is a bad boy. Dave’s self esteem deteriorates even more as she treats him worse than one would a dog, yet acts towards his brothers with care and affection and even goes on to teach them to look down on Dave.

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Dave is not worthy of Mother’s praise, affection, care, or even food. All Mother is to Dave is chance to be slapped, punched, beat, spit upon and humiliated.
As the narrative progresses Dave gets angry and starts to fight back against the Bitch. This is where Dave enters detachment, detachment from a motherly figure, from pain, from God and from himself. The Bitch is a torturous villain that only exists to push Dave to his very last limit, physically, emotionally and mentally. She is not satisfied with beating, starving, humiliating, and punishing Dave anymore, she is out for blood and it all seems to happen to satisfy some twisted pleasure she gathers from these actions. The Bitch makes Dave throw up to assure herself he is not receiving food anywhere else, leaves him in a bathroom with a bucket full of clorox and ammonia, orders him to stay in freezing water for hours at a time, makes him drink small amounts of clorox, ammonia, and dish soap, burns him in the stove, and stabs him. She pushes Dave to believe there is no God, and to nearly make him give up on himself by making him wish he were dead. The Bitch is out to break Dave, and I am sure if he had not been rescued at that point she probably would have succeeded.
Through Dave’s narrative we see Roerva’s metamorphosis through her actions and the effects they have on him, however, we are not given enough background information to do more than speculate on why this change happened. This is my personal analysis of the situation...
I spent a lot of time going over the second chapter, “The Good Times,” looking for clues. One of the things that stood out the most in my mind was her eagerness to please, specially her husband. Stress is a big factor that can sometimes make parents lose it, and maybe she had a great amount of pressure (whether placed there by herself or by others I do not know) to be the perfect mother, housewife, etc. Her husband is a firefighter and due to his job he is forced to stay away for long periods of time. This steers me to add to this eagerness to please and maybe not get much in return in form of recognition for said efforts?? This theory is also supported by her attitude towards her husband later in the narrative. It has already been established that she is controlling with Dave, but she also has tight control over her husband. Towards the end of the tale there is not even a trace to be found of any love between Roerva and Stephen.
Part of me believes that Roerva’s anger stems from a wish and effort to have and be the perfect family and not be able to keep living this illusion. There is a quote that also makes me wonder about her own past and childhood. In Chapter 2 (page 23) Dave mentions something his mom said: “Mom told me she was crying because she was happy to have a real family.” This makes me want to know more about her, did she not have a “real” family before? Another thing that makes me want to know more about her is her addiction to alcohol. Even early in the narrative, throughout the good times, Roerva and her husband are found drinking and toasting each other, but how and why exactly did this get out of hand? Substance abuse, in this case alcohol, plays a big part in child abuse, but once again no background information is found to speculate on.
Overall, I learned a lot from the book, and I am glad to see that Dave was able to survive and leave that situation. I also wonder what other struggles Dave faced once he left his “home” and was out of his mother’s reach. I am full of questions that have been unanswered, but at the end of the book Dave states that a lot of our questions will be answered in the next books, The Lost Boy and A Man Named Dave. I look forward to finding out.
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